SIHH 2017 – high jewellery – Exceptional pieces are now the exception
Jewellery watches: are they jewellery, or watches? For the last five years this question has been easy to answer: both! The perfect fusion between the art of the watchmaker and that of the jeweller has given rise to a golden age. And, although that golden age is not losing any of its lustre, its style is definitely changing. The jewellery business is in fine fettle, which is what has enabled Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, two watchmakers with a powerful jewellery culture, both of which had booths at the SIHH, to distance themselves somewhat from the current problems of the watch industry. Cartier has toned down the usual blizzard of breathtaking pieces that typically adorned its booth at the SIHH. Van Cleef was always more parsimonious with its launches, but not with its ability to make a statement – quite the opposite, in fact. Other brands that had previously gone all out for creative and sumptuously bejewelled watches appear to be in retreat. There remain a few stunning creations, but they are thin on the ground.mées.
Parmigiani Fleurier has bezels set with baguette diamonds, paired with minute repeaters and enamelled dials. There are also a few ornamental pieces by Piaget, including the new Altiplano tourbillon. With its diamond-set bezel and flinqué enamel dial, there is no obviously masculine option for this complicated timepiece, which was expected to be targeted at men. But Piaget has not made the watch a statement of opulence.
Van Cleef & Arpels, which has always been a jeweller to the core, introduced a number of typically imaginative, charming and impeccably executed pieces. The Ruban Secret Diamants stands apart for its integral setting that sets the tone for the whole piece. You won’t find any 14-carat diamonds on this secret watch, or a hidden giant ruby; just a lustrous knot that moves aside to reveal the time.
In fact, for comparison’s sake we have some images of this standard white (non-meteorite) dial steel Tonda 1950 watches (which cost almost half as much), and also you can see how challenging it is to spot the difference if you didn’t know what you were looking for.This conversation is watch nerdery at its apex, and I’m OK with this. I will, however, say that to a level, the watch manufacturers have compelled us collectors to be this pedantic due to such a glacially slow product refresh cycle. In reality, compared to most, Parmigiani comes out with brand-new stuff all the time. I do however indicate that when new variants of this Tonda 1950 case come out, do they need to always maintain the same end with the same dial and some light changes such as materials? In the “vintage” days of watches, doing things like that has been almost common practice. I believe more number among watches today (especially exclusive luxury watches), may lend itself nicely to more inspired customers as a result of the increased degree of the variety and rarity.The reason the white meteorite edition of this Tonda 1950 has actual “exotic dial” possible is again since the inherent watch is so versatile in its own usefulness. It is not a sports watch or something your non-watch-interested peers will agree is that a fantastic use of cash, but it is a good all-purpose dress/formal watch. Additionally, it appears to come from a decent brand, has a slick design, and when you flip the case over to flaunt the movement — you never have to worry about looking like a cheap buttocks. Parmigiani continues to make truly beautiful movements that are also practical. This one has only time with subsidiary seconds, and is designed to be a comparatively thin automatic motion thanks to the use of a micro-rotor.
Although Cartier brought only half the number of pieces to the SIHH that we saw in 2016, it nevertheless managed to present the biggest, most visually stunning and varied selection of jewellery watches of the event, with a total of twenty high jewellery one-off pieces. Where before we might have found mysterious tourbillons in whimsical settings, we’re now seeing more quartz movements. And while all of last year’s haute horlogerie watches were offered in fully-set versions, this year you have to look quite hard to find the diamond variant of the La Rotonde Répétition Minutes Double Tourbillon Mystérieux.
But, although the horological aspect of these watches may have diminished in importance, their creativity and charm remain intact. Giant gemstones are there not for ostentation but to tell a story. The Montre Flamant is a perfect example: the 78-carat rose quartz that dominates this watch is there simply to flood the area with pink, not to inflate the bill. And the star collection of 2017, the Panthère, offers a wild and colourful experience, with cuff watches set with aquamarines and heliodores – no sapphires or rubies to be seen. But, if precious gems are your thing, you need look no further than the Trait d’Eclat, a dazzling streak of ruby red outlined with baguette-cut diamonds, which is truly sublime.